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20121026 ButterflyFestival KO 3231SISD students rewarded for reading achievement: Students from Ruben Hinojosa Elementary in Sharyland Independent School District were rewarded for their achievements in the Accelerated Reader Program with a trip to the Texas Butterfly Festival. The children’s program held at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park introduced children to many of the species of butterflies that migrate through the Valley annually. Progress Times photo by Kathy OlivarezA preponderance of butterflies taking part in the annual butterfly migration made the Texas Butterfly Festival, held October 25-28, a great success. School children and adult butterfly lovers attended different aspects of the festival. Queens, monarchs, snouts, sulfurs, hairstreaks, swallowtails and a number of other species stopped in at the National Butterfly Center to enjoy the habitat provided for them as they journeyed south for the winter.

At Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park, children from Mission and Sharyland Independent School Districts visited butterfly gardens where they not only saw a great variety of butterflies, they learned about the life cycle of butterflies, their migration and the host plants they need to live.

Sharyland ISD teacher Silvia Lopez, who teaches first grade at Ruben Hinojosa Elementary, said the students who were participating in the activities at Bentsen State Park were being rewarded for their achievements in the Accelerated Reader program. The bus Lopez rode carried students from first through third grades who had earned the field trip.

Lopez’s children were walked around the butterfly gardens at the administrative building to see the many butterflies flitting around the bushes planted to provide butterfly habitat.

Afterwards, they were led into the museum building where volunteers discussed the lifecycle of butterflies. Nan Persinger held replicas of butterfly eggs, a caterpillar, chrysalis and a fully-formed Monarch butterfly. Children were told that the egg stage of a butterfly’s life only lasts four days, while the caterpillar stage lasts two weeks. The chrysalis stage lasts 10 days, and a butterfly lives about six weeks.

While the younger children were at the headquarters for the park, a group of older children were taken by bus to the pavilion where there are butterfly gardens. They learned about some of the different butterflies who come through the Valley and the habitat they need.

Meanwhile, a short distance away at the headquarters building for the National Butterfly Center, adult butterfly lovers were enjoying guided tours and lectures about butterflies from experts in the field. Dr. Jeffrey Glassberg, who founded the National Butterfly Center, guided participants along the habitat trails developed in the rear of the headquarters building on a two-hour field trip.

Ruth Andre of Arkansas was very pleased with the tour, saying, “Dr. Glassberg really knows about butterflies and is very passionate about them. While we were walking, he identified each species we saw and explained about the food and nectar plants each one needed to assure its survival.”

Andre said they had seen thousands of butterflies, some more common, like queens, sulfurs and hairstreaks, but they had also see some considered quite rare like the Southern Pygmy Blue, not often found in the United States.

Theia Foley, also of Arkansas, was impressed with the natural plant nursery where they could purchase plants to provide food and habitat for butterflies to attract them to their gardens.

Foley said this was her first trip to Texas Butterfly Festival, and she felt the speakers were outstanding.

“Dr. Glassberg, Dr. Robert Pyle and Paul Dr. Opler are absolutely the top men in the field,” she added. “For anyone who wants to learn more about butterflies, the speakers are absolutely outstanding.”

The two women were enjoying the field trips. They had gone to Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge on their own where they saw an extremely rare Guatemalan Cracker, so named because of the sound it makes with its wings. They are very rarely found in the United States.

The ladies were also looking forward to a field trip to Rancho Lomitas on Saturday to learn about how the natural plants of the Rio Grande Valley were used for foods and medicines, as well as which ones provide habitat and food sources for different butterflies.

Tours took participants as far as Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge to find butterfly hotspots throughout the Valley. Unique tours included the pontoon boat tour along the Rio Grande, and a black-light moth tour at Bentsen State Park.

Seminars included topics about butterfly identification, coloration and habitat.

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